Navigating SaaS Cybersecurity with SSPM

May 21, 2024 at 8:30 am by Amanda Canale

Securing Software as a Service (SaaS) security is of paramount criticality in today’s digital age where the threat of data breaches and cyber threats consistently linger over us like storm clouds. Thankfully, there’s a way to protect the sensitive information they store. 

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) is a security maintenance methodology designed to detect cybersecurity threats. It does so by continuously evaluating user activity monitoring, compliance assurance, and security configuration audits to ensure the safety and integrity of the sensitive information stored in cloud-based applications.

SSPMs play a crucial role in SaaS cybersecurity as the early threat detection they provide can make way for swift and effective action. And as the number of SaaS providers continue to rise, it’s become even more critical for them to be able to successfully navigate the complicated maze of data security best practices, such as decentralized storage, ironclad passwords, encryption both in life and end-of-life, robust employee training, a chain of custody, and a secure data decommissioning process.

In this blog, we’ll delve into some of the best practices for SSPM that organizations should adopt to safeguard their data effectively.

Decentralized Storage: Data Backup in Multiple Locations

From the personal information stored on our smartphones and computers to our home gaming systems, we all know the importance of backing up our data. The same level of care needs to be taken for SaaS applications, and backing up data to multiple locations is a fundamental aspect of data security. 

Data loss can be catastrophic for any organization. While cloud platforms typically offer robust infrastructure and redundancy measures, relying only on a single data center can leave organizations incredibly vulnerable to catastrophic data loss by way of major outages, man-made and natural disasters, or unauthorized access. Storing data in decentralized locations allows SaaS applications to enhance their redundancy and resilience against data loss because it eliminates single points of failure that are common with centralized storage systems. Decentralized data storage is also often incorporated with encryption and consensus mechanisms to further thwart unauthorized access. 

Compulsory Strong Passwords

Compulsory strong passwords are another essential component of SSPM. Weak or easily guessable passwords are low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals seeking unauthorized access to SaaS accounts. Implementing policies that mandate the use of complex passwords containing a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters can significantly enhance security posture and thwart brute-force attacks.

In addition, regular password updates and the implementation of multi-factor authentication (MFA) can add extra layers of security, making it exponentially harder for cybercriminals to breach your systems.

Encryption

Encryption is like a protective shield for sensitive data, scrambling the drive’s data into ciphertext, making it completely unreadable to unauthorized users, both during the drive’s life and in end-of-life. Typically, the authorized user needs to use a specific algorithm and encryption key to decipher the data. 

Implementing strong encryption protocols not only help SaaS applications meet critical compliance regulations but also foster trust among their customers and stakeholders that their data is being protected.  

After all, the assumption is that if you can’t read what’s on the drive, what good is it, right? Not quite.

Encryption is not a complete failsafe as decryption keys can be compromised or accessible in other ways and hacking technology is at an all-time high level of sophistication, so it’s vital to your data security to have a proper chain of custody and data decommissioning procedure in place to securely destroy any end-of-life drives, encrypted or not. We’ll talk about that more in a bit. 

However, even with this fallback, encryption is still a vital tool that should be combined with other best practices to secure the sensitive information being stored and collected.

Robust Employee Training 

Robust employee training is another indispensable tool for strengthening SaaS security. Human error and negligence are among the leading causes of data breaches and security incidents. As with any new skill or job, proper training provides people with structured guidance and knowledge to better understand the task at hand and ensures that learners are receiving up-to-date information and best practices. By fostering a culture of security awareness and providing comprehensive training, SaaS applications can empower their employees to recognize and mitigate potential threats proactively. 

Robust training makes it crucial for organizations to properly educate employees about cybersecurity best practices and the importance of adhering to established security policies and procedures, like a chain of custody.

Chain of Custody and Data Decommissioning Procedure

Last, but certainly not least, there’s creating and maintaining both a chain of custody and secure data decommissioning procedure. 

For context, a chain of custody is a detailed documented trail of the data’s handling, movement, access, and activity, from within the facility and throughout their lifecycle. A strong chain of custody guarantees that data is exclusively managed by authorized personnel. With this level of transparency, SaaS applications can significantly minimize the risk of unauthorized access or tampering and further enhance their overall data security. Not to mention ensuring compliance with regulations and preserving data integrity.

Part of that chain of custody also includes documenting what happens to the data once it reaches end-of-life. 

A secure data decommissioning procedure is essential for safeguarding sensitive information throughout its lifecycle. When retiring SaaS applications or migrating to alternative solutions, organizations must ensure that data is properly disposed of in accordance with industry regulations and best practices. 

While creating and maintaining both a chain of custody and decommissioning process, there is also a strong emphasis on conducting the decommissioning in-house. In-house data decommissioning, or destruction, is exactly what it sounds like: destroying your end-of-life data under the same roof you store it. Documenting the in-house decommissioning mitigates the potential for data breaches and leaks and is essential in verifying that all necessary procedures have been followed in accordance with compliance regulations, industry best practices, and provides you the assurance that the data is destroyed.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, when it comes to securing the personal and sensitive information you collect and store as a SaaS provider, the significance of complying with SSPM best practices cannot be overstated. By backing up data to multiple locations, enforcing strong password policies, leveraging encryption, providing comprehensive employee training, and implementing secure chain of custody and in-house data decommissioning procedures, SaaS providers can enhance their data security and protect against a wide range of threats and vulnerabilities.

Regulatory Compliance and Data Protection: A Guide for SaaS Providers

May 1, 2024 at 8:15 am by Amanda Canale

The digital world we’re currently living in is constantly evolving; there’s no denying it. As new technologies and applications come with new vulnerabilities and threats, regulatory compliance and data protection stand as two crucial principles guiding these advancements and industries forward, including software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

As SaaS providers navigate through the complicated maze of compliance regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), ensuring complete compliance with these standards becomes of vital importance.

At the heart of regulatory compliance and data protection lie a slew of essential security measures, ranging from data encryption and access controls to regular security audits, incident response planning, and, most importantly, data decommissioning processes. Whether it’s physical security, cybersecurity, or other methods and measures, it is crucial that the two always go hand-in-hand.

Essential Security Measures and Methods

Data Encryption

Data encryption stands as an essential tool, not just for SaaS providers but for any organization or company handling sensitive information. By converting the information into an encrypted format, SaaS providers (and their customers) can rest assured knowing that even in the off chance the data is compromised, it will remain indecipherable to unauthorized accessors. This encryption process requires complex algorithms to essentially scramble the data into ciphertext, which can only be decrypted with the corresponding decryption key, which is typically held by authorized users (think like a treasure chest that can only be opened by a one-of-a-kind, magical key).

Implementing robust encryption protocols not only helps SaaS providers comply with regulatory mandates but also instills confidence and trust among customers regarding the security of their data. With data encryption in place, SaaS providers can begin to mitigate the risk of potential thefts, maintain confidentiality, and uphold the integrity of their systems and services.

Access Controls

The next crucial cybersecurity reinforcement are access controls that restrict data access to only those with permission and clearance.

Access controls serve as a critical layer of defense for SaaS providers, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access sensitive data and resources. Key cards, PINs, biometric authentication, multi-factor authentication, and other secure methods all play a role in verifying the identity of those seeking entry. By restricting access to data and functionalities to only those with specific roles or privileges, access controls help prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, and insider threats.

Additionally, access controls play a heavy role when adhering to compliance regulations and mandates, ensuring that data is accessed and handled while aligning with their corresponding privacy and security standards.

Regular Security Audits

Regular security audits are just one phenomenal proactive risk management tool for identifying vulnerabilities while adhering to compliance standards. Scheduled assessments of systems, processes, and controls give SaaS providers the power to identify any potential or existing vulnerabilities, assess the effectiveness of their already existing security measures, and mitigate them. These audits not only help to detect and address security weaknesses but also showcase a transparent commitment to maintaining robust security practices, something partners, customers, and investors are looking for when it comes to their sensitive information.

Incident Response Planning

Another effective proactive tool for optimal SaaS cybersecurity is implementing a stringent incident response plan. An incident response plan is an indispensable tool for not just SaaS providers but everyone, as it outlines clear protocols for incident detection, proper communication channels for reporting and escalation, and predefined roles and responsibilities for all of their key stakeholders.

Incident response planning can also include regular drills and simulations to test the plan’s efficiency and effectiveness while also ensuring that all personnel are ready to handle whatever security incident is thrown their way. (We do fire drills for a reason, so why not do them when it comes to our own data?) By prioritizing incident response planning, SaaS providers can minimize the potential damage of security breaches, preserve data integrity, and uphold customer trust in their ability to safeguard sensitive information.

In-House Data Decommissioning Processes

The last and most crucial step of any data lifecycle management strategy is a high-security data decommissioning process, preferably in-house. We all know this. Otherwise known as data destruction, proper data decommissioning is the process of securely and responsibly disposing of any data considered “end-of-life.” Data decommissioning should be applied to any device that can store data, such as hard disk drives (HDDs), paper, optical media, eMedia, solid-state drives (SSDs), and more.

When data is properly managed and disposed of, organizations can better enforce data retention policies. This, in turn, leads to improved data governance and gravely reduces the risk of unauthorized or illegal access. As critical as data decommissioning is, having it done in-house provides an added layer of security when ensuring that all sensitive data is disposed of properly. Additionally, it assists companies in adhering to data protection laws like GDPR and HIPAA, which frequently call for strict, safe data disposal procedures.

Compliance Regulations

As SaaS providers handle vast amounts of sensitive data, ensuring compliance with regulations is crucial, but compliance regulations are not a one-size-fits-all fit. Each regulation brings its own set of requirements, implications, and parameters, along with its own list of consequences and fines.

To keep it brief, here is just a small list of compliance regulations SaaS providers should be in accordance with.

Financial Compliance
  • ASC 606: ASC 606 is a security framework that was developed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). It’s a five-step process that allows businesses and organizations to accurately and transparently reflect the timing and amount of revenue that is earned.
  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP): GAAP, also developed by FASB, is a collection of accounting rules and best practices that U.S. law mandates when it comes to releasing public financial statements, such as those traded on the stock exchange.
  • International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS): IFRS is a set of global accounting guidelines that apply to a public corporation’s financial statements in order to show transparency, consistency, and international comparison.
Security Compliance
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO/IEC 27001): ISO/IEC 27001 is an internationally recognized standard for information security management systems and provides a framework for identifying, analyzing, and mitigating security risks.
  • Service Organization Control (SOC 2): SOC 2 was developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) to be a compliance standard that defines the criteria for managing customer information within service organizations.
  • Payment Card Industry and Data Security Standard (PCI DSS): PCI DSS is a set of security protocols that must be adhered to by any company that handles payment processes, such as accepting, transferring, or storing card financial data.
Data Security and Compliance
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): GDPR is a personal data protection law that requires stringent data protection standards for businesses and organizations that handle personal data of EU citizens, regardless of where the business operates from. With GDPR, EU residents are able to view, erase, and export their data, and even object to the processing of their information.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): HIPAA is an American federal law that protects sensitive patient health information (PHI) from being shared without their consent.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): CCPA is essentially like GDPR but for California residents, granting them greater control over their personal information and necessitating transparent data collection practices and opt-out mechanisms.

Conclusion

In conclusion, for SaaS providers, regulatory compliance and data protection represent not just legal obligations but also opportunities to foster customer trust and optimize their data security measures. By implementing essential security measures, adhering to regulatory frameworks, and embracing a culture of continuous improvement, SaaS providers can navigate the regulatory landscape with confidence, safeguarding both data and reputation in an increasingly digitized world.

At SEM, we have a wide array of high-security data destruction solutions that are specifically designed to meet any volume and compliance regulations, whether in the financial, healthcare, payment card, or other industries. In a time when the digital space has the power to influence the course of multiple industries, implementing essential security methods along with a decommissioning plan are crucial tools that determine an industry’s robustness, legitimacy, and identity.

Why Cybersecurity is Crucial for the Saas Industry

March 25, 2024 at 8:00 am by Amanda Canale

In 2024, we have entered an era that has, for the most part, been completely dominated by digital transformation. As Software as a Service (SaaS) applications continue to emerge as a pillar for businesses on the hunt for optimal efficiency, scalability, and innovation, there’s no denying that there has been an increasing dependence on cybersecurity. And that dependency is more critical than ever.

Today, we want to not only ask, but answer the question: why is cybersecurity crucial for SaaS companies?

 First, let’s cover the basics.

What is a SaaS company?

SaaS companies have essentially revolutionized the traditional way software is delivered by providing users with access to their apps and services via the internet. Contrary to the more conventional software installations, SaaS companies have been able to completely eliminate the need for users to invest in pricey hardware or maneuver through complex and time consuming installations and updates. 

Since SaaS applications are housed centrally, they provide an accessible route to their services and data, all through a basic web browser. Not only does this offer more accessibility, but also flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and unparalleled scalability. (After all, the world wide web knows no bounds, meaning SaaS companies could be just on the brink of a new wave of technological innovation.)

SaaS platforms span across of wide variety of industries and functions, from customer relationship management (CRM) and human resources to project management and enterprise resource planning (ERP). Regardless of their industry or function, SaaS companies often handle sensitive information, including customer data, financial records, and proprietary business data, meaning that a data breach could lead to severe consequences, both on the legal and reputation fronts. 

Unforeseen Threats

SaaS companies, with their troves of invaluable data stored in the cloud, have become an alluring and irresistible target for cyberattacks. However, cybersecurity’s role in SaaS functionality is not just about protecting its data but is also about securing the very fabric that upholds it. 

Speaking of “fabric,” picture SaaS applications as an intricately woven tapestry made up of equally complex interconnected services and third-party integrations. To an outsider, it’s something to marvel at with all of its connected threads and lines forming patterns and beautiful imagery. But to those who know what to look for, it’s a messy web of functions that can all bring about their own instances of opportunity and vulnerabilities. 

It’s this tapestry in particular why cybersecurity measures must extend beyond the immediate SaaS platform, fully encompassing the entire complex ecosystem in order to create a unified defense against all potential threats.

Ever-Evolving Battlefields 

A SaaS company’s proactive approach to cybersecurity is marked by regular updates, stringent patch management, and systematic security audits. 

But what do those mean?

Regular updates ensure that software and systems are equipped with the latest defenses, addressing vulnerabilities, and enhancing their overall resilience. Stringent patch management involves promptly applying security patches to address any identified weaknesses and minimizing the window of opportunity for potential breaches. Finally, systematic security audits are a comprehensive assessment, judging the entire infrastructure to identify and rectify any existing vulnerabilities.

However, the reality is that hackers and thieves are continuously evolving their tactics, meaning that it is vital for SaaS companies to be able to adapt and uphold their defenses against this ever-changing battlefield. They can do so by leveraging innovative technologies and embracing a more modern, proactive mindset that anticipates, rather than reacts to, the evolving cybersecurity realm. Upholding defenses in this ever-changing battlefield demands a dynamic approach, one that not only mirrors the agility of cyber attackers, but also ensuring that the SaaS applications always remains one step ahead.

Conclusion

The ever-present, ominous threat of ransomware, phishing schemes, and data breaches have and will always loom, requiring a robust and continually improved cybersecurity system to act as a bodyguard against these unseen adversaries and mitigating potential operational disruptions.

Cybersecurity is not merely a technological accessory but an integral component that defines any industry’s resilience, credibility, and identity in an era where the digital realm shapes the trajectory of businesses and economies alike.

Top 5 SaaS Data Breaches

February 28, 2024 at 8:00 am by Amanda Canale

As of 2023, 45% of businesses have dealt with cloud-based data breaches, which has risen five percent from the previous year. Data breaches have increased with the advancement of cloud-based platforms and software as a service (SaaS). These services offer flexibility to access an absurd number of services on the internet rather than install ones individually. Although this is an incredible technological advancement, there are high-risk factors with data privacy that arise. Information can easily be shared between cloud services, meaning companies must protect their sensitive information at all costs. With the increase in the use of SaaS applications, there are security measures that should be taken to prevent data leaks from happening.

Here’s a rundown of well-known SaaS companies that have experienced significant data breaches and security measures to help prevent similar incidents from affecting you.

Facebook

Facebook has faced multiple data breaches over the last decade, with their most recent one in 2019, affecting over 530 million users. Facebook failed to notify these individual users of their data being stolen. Phone numbers, full names, locations, email addresses, and other user profile information were posted to a public database. Although financial information, health information, and passwords were not leaked, there is still a rise in security concerns from Facebook’s users.

Malicious actors used the contract importer to scrape data from people’s profiles. This feature was created to help users connect with people in their contact list but had security gaps which led actors to access information on public profiles. Security changes were put in place in 2019, but these actors had been able to access the information prior.

When adding personal information to profiles or online services, individuals need to be conscious of the level of detail they disclose as it can be personally identifying.

Microsoft

In 2021, 30,000 US companies and up to 60,000 worldwide companies total were affected by a cyberattack on Microsoft Exchange email servers. These hackers gained access to emails ranging from small businesses to local governments.

Again in 2023, a Chinese attack hit Microsoft’s cloud platform, affecting 25 organizations. These hackers forged authentication to access email accounts and personal information.

Constructive backup plans are crucial for a smooth recovery after a data breach occurs. Microsoft constantly updates its security measures, prioritizing email, file-sharing platforms, and SaaS apps. These cyberattacks are eye-opening for how escalated the situation can become. Designating a specific team for cybersecurity can help monitor any signs of suspicious activity.

Yahoo

Yahoo experienced one of the largest hacking incidents in history, affecting 3 billion user accounts. Yahoo did not realize the severity of this breach, causing the settlement to be $117.5 million. Yahoo offers services like Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Fantasy Sports, and Flickr which were all affected by this breach.

This one-click data breach occurred when a Canadian hacker worked with Russian spies to hack Yahoo’s use of cookies and access important personal data. These hackers could obtain usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, and user passwords, all of which are personally identifiable information (PII) and more than enough for a hacker to take over people’s lives. An extensive breach like Yahoo raises concern for its users regarding data privacy and the cybersecurity of their information.

Verizon

From September 2023 to December 2023, Verizon experienced a breach within its workplace. This breach occurred when an employee compromised personal data from 63,000 colleagues. Verizon described this issue as an “insider wrongdoing”. Names, addresses, and social security numbers were exposed but were not used or shared. Verizon resolved this breach by allowing affected employees to get two years of protection on their information and up to $1 million for stolen funds/ expenses.

While this information was not used or extended to customer information, companies need to educate their workplace on precautions for data privacy. If individuals hear that the inner circle is leaking personal information about their colleagues, it raises concern for customers.

 Equifax

Equifax, a credit reporting agency, experienced a data breach in 2017 that affected roughly 147 million consumers. Investigators emphasized the security failures that allowed hackers to get in and navigate through different servers. These hackers gained access to social security numbers, birth dates, home addresses, credit card information, and their driver’s license information.

This failed security check from an Equifax employee caused easy access for these hackers in multiple spots. Taking the extra time to ensure your company has secured loose ties is crucial for reducing attacks.

Conclusion

Data breaches occur no matter a company’s size or industry, but the risks can be reduced with secure and consistent precautions. Data breaches are common, especially with the extended use of cloud platforms and SaaS, but failing to store and transport information among services, to have a documented chain of custody, and data decommissioning process in place all play a role in having your sensitive information being accessed by the wrong kinds of people.

At SEM, we offer a variety of in-house solutions designed to destroy any personal information that is out there. Our IT Solutions, specifically our NSA-listed Degausser,  SEM Model- EMP1000- HS stands as the premier degausser in the market today. This degausser offers destruction with one click, destroying the binary magnetic field that stores your end-of-life data. SaaS companies can feel secure knowing their data is destroyed by an NSA-approved government data destruction model. While an NSA-listed destruction solution isn’t always necessary for SaaS companies, it is secure enough for the US Government, so we can assure you it’s secure enough to protect your end-of-life data, too.

Whether your data is government-level or commercial, it is important to ensure data security, which is where SEM wants to help. There is an option for everyone at SEM, with a variety of NSA-listed degaussers, IT crushers, and IT shredders to protect your end-of-life data. Further your security measures today by finding out which data solutions work best for you.